Exploring Methane Hydrates

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A helicopter carrying UT Austin researchers and students arrives at the Helix Q4000 during methane hydrate drilling in the Gulf of Mexico on 2017, the first ever recovery of pressurized hydrate cores by a US university. Credit: Jackson School of Geosciences

5-22% of Earth’s global organic carbon is trapped in gas hydrate, an ice-like substance composed largely of methane and water. Most of this massive carbon reservoir lies in continental margin sediments within a layer that extends downward from the seafloor and can reach thicknesses of ~1,000 m. This layer interacts with the Earth’s ocean and, occasionally, the atmosphere. This dynamic carbon reservoir is a potential energy resource, a potential source of geohazards, and a potential driver for climate change. We link field and laboratory measurements with theoretical models to illuminate how these hydrate reservoirs form and how these reservoirs respond to perturbation.

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